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Kicking a Dead Horse Kicking a Dead Horse
by Jan Sand
2008-01-27 09:41:43
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There is a very old story of a canny farmer whose life style was to wring every last cent out of all of his operations. He cut down on his own food and maintenance to the bare bone and, for a while, made extreme experiments on his horse to cut down on feed. "You know," he complained, "I was very careful to see how little the horse could manage on and just when I succeeded in cutting down to an extremely satisfactory minimum the damned animal died".

About a half century ago when engineering technology was getting up to full steam in applying its concepts to the consumer there was a surge of optimism in human culture about how the ingenuity of human progress would free humanity from the unpleasant tasks necessary to maintain civilization and maximize the time each citizen could have to participate in chosen activities. People in the USA started to enjoy a two day weekend and general work weeks came to standardize on 40 hours with extra compensation for time over that. Washing machines and dishwashers and electric mixers poured out of factories to a ready public. Ice boxes became refrigerators eliminating the nagging worry about the oversexed iceman servicing both the iceboxes and frustrated housewives leaving the field open to the virile friendly mailman and the occasional Fuller Brush salesman with an endearing smile.

Both the labor unions and consumer technology worked hand in hand to free the average guy to indulge in the ubiquitous six-pack and the promise of the rising television industry to sop up all that unused time becoming available.

But all those visions of robotic elves swarming the average household to tie loose shoelaces and wipe old grandfather's nose and change the baby's diaper have yet to materialize. Frozen pizzas taste not much better than the paper plates on which they are served and the benevolent Ronald Reagan nudged most of the labor unions into relative powerlessness to see to it that the average working guy could look forward to the advantages of machine production which would cut the obligatory working day even further. Instead the bulk of the advantages offered by increased productivity were diverted into the pockets of management so that instead of a family man being able to support his family, now his wife must join the work force with an outside job to sustain a reasonable income. And the threatened economies of families and individuals has already slipped far into the never-never land of rickety personal credit, a kind of fairy gold to prop up the stumbling economy of the nation.

The economy with its accompanying social structure can claim validity only on the basis of how well it contributes to the health and well being of the individual human beings which comprise the community which supports it which, in general, leans towards the libertarian point of view.

Totalitarian societies generally operate on the basis that the value of the individual lies only in his/her capability to contribute to society and thereby devalue the average individual to a large extent. The leaders, of course, view themselves in a somewhat different light. Military organizations and several others such as some formal theological groups fit neatly into this category.

As do many human cooperative groups that are structured to accomplish a specific purpose. The captain of a ship is accorded powers, occasionally to the point of severe imprisonment of a violator of his command or even deciding who will or will not survive in an extreme emergency. Businesses in general can enforce personal behavior and dress that is, in general, beyond the powers of the overall government system.

But occasionally a point arrives wherein the individual members are treated beyond the endurance of the individuals comprising the group. On ships there are mutinies, in businesses workers strike or flee, in governments there are revolutions.

Democratic governments provide a formalized form of revolution called an election which should provide a peaceful change of authority to more competent leadership but when all power factions are controlled by a single unified economic entity which provides no alternative to the oppressive system, the horse dies and kicking it does nothing for rejuvenation.

    
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Emanuel Paparella2008-01-27 15:58:08
On the kicking of dead horses, Nietzsche lived in Turin for eight years. While there, in 1889, after completing his last book Ecce Homo, he underwent a mental and physical breakdown from which he never recovered; in fact, he went insane. It all began with the viewing of a horse being beaten to death by its owner. Nietzsche ran to the horse and tearfully embraced it and whispered something, thereupon he became incoherent. He was taken to his room in an ecstatic state. Thereupon he began to write numerous letters to his friends signing them Dionysus. Much has been made of that scene of the tearful Nietzsche whispering to a dying horse as a metaphor for the coming nihilism of Europe but what does it really mean? The horse knows for sure, but he too, alas, is dead.


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